“You stay out until it’s daylight. Really daylight. When you get home, everyone ugly. You ugly. They ugly.”
Luchy is in the backseat, rolling his rs and making Google Translate look like an elegant solution to turning Italian logic into English phrases. Luchy is short for Luciano. Half the time they call him Mario.
We’re in the car, headed back to the hummus/chicken place for Mediterranean breakfast round two. “I hate hummus,” Luchy says. “Every morning the same thing. Too good. Make me fat.” And then he looks out the window and says, “It’s extremely wet what’s going on.” I think he means the rain.
The next day Luchy will tell me he wants to make his English better but that would be a total and complete tragedy. The beauty of Luchy is the shit that comes out of his mouth, so ill-pieced and random it rests somewhere between ESL and poetry, which would make sense given that back in Italy, Luchy is a professional writer for television.
Brannon tells me this and I laugh, thinking he’s got to be joking.
“No, I’m serious,” Brannon says.
Half of the group is already there and has been for the last two hours. The table is littered with uneaten flatbreads and empty bowls of hummus. Two or three juice boxes sit in between. “I keep trying to leave,” says one guy next to me, exhausted and with half his face in the palm of one hand, “but everyone just keeps coming.”
The kid from California by way of Israel is talking about some pill he took last night that made his face all red.
The boys step into City Chicken to order the usual. Jonas says you just have to go in there and whoever shouts the loudest gets their food. There’s no line or common courtesy, just a hierarchy of noise.
Everyone sits outside talking and eating, drinking brown tea out of glass cups. Alone and in search for water, I walk down a sidewalk paved with stone like broken teeth, chips of gray all pushed together in the space under trees. Men sit outside of restaurants – at least the ones that are open because it’s Sunday and I am in Europe. Most everything’s closed. I’m not used to this inconvenience because in America we traded “God’s Day” for capitalism. Things are opened 24 hours, 7 days a week, 362.5 days per year because God didn’t want Americans to rest, God wanted Americans to make money.
The only open bodega is filled with cheap bottles of wine and hundred-year-old candy that sits in Plexiglas organizers, fallen sugar pushing into the corners like dust. I grab a bottle of water and hand a two-Euro coin to a cashier with a free hand.
“Have a good one,” I say, forgetting I’m not back home.
Battina finds a parking spot at the entrance of the open air. “Open airs” are what they call outdoor parties here, though I think the term infers that it, like the other weekend parties in Berlin, starts on a Thursday and ends on Monday morning. Not calling it an “open air” might incorrectly suggest there’s a limit, and people don’t come to Berlin for time limits on their rage fests.
What is likely the most terrifying thing I’ve seen possibly ever is walking towards us: a man, probably in his late forties or fifties, with a creepy, blissed-out grin stitched on his face, a massive load of snot hanging from his nose and holding court, refusing to fall. It looks like his brain has started the slow descent from his skull and through his nose, looking to find a more hospitable environment, say, the floor of a gas station bathroom.
If a government ever needed an effective PSA for the war against drugs, this guy would be it, bar none.
We follow him through the entrance. At a distance.
Some chick under a tree takes my money and stamps my hand. At the end of a path, kids dance in a large sandy patch, a river and an active train track just beyond them. The red and yellow siding of a speeding S-Bahn passes in the background, behind bodies pumping their fists and gyrating at various degrees – depending on how much MDMA they have or have not taken. My favorite is the kid in the tracksuit who reminds me of a friend back home. He grinds his jaw furiously and stares straight ahead, his angular shoulders moving back and forth in very precise time with the music. It’s maybe 4 in the afternoon; he’s probably been up for 36 hours.
Bump bump bump.
More indecipherable dance music.
More bodies bobbing around.
Jonas says that the open airs used to be done illegally, though here “illegally” seems up for interpretation. The cops didn’t really care what went on. Apparently the parties haven’t been as good for the last few years. A few different ones have shut down for various reasons, party tourists ship in every weekend from around Europe, corporate sponsors have come in, companies like Red Bull and Lucky Strike donating tents and umbrellas to provide shade for sweaty, dehydrated junkies.
Junkies or not, it’s a nice enough, weird enough crowd.
A storm broils overhead, blackening the afternoon until it starts raining huge, fat, chilly drops. People cluster together under the tents and trees while the diehards remain on the dance floor, raising their hands to the sky like that the opening scene in Blade, only without the blood raining from fire sprinklers and vampires and everything.
The music marries thundering booms while lightening cracks overhead, close enough to make me nervous. I bob around under my umbrella, having brought an umbrella to an open air because I’m turning into my mother.